APPALLED BY a recent High Court decision to uphold the federal government’s right to detain asylum seekers indefinitely, a group of lawyers is taking a groundbreaking step to overhaul migration law in this country.
The Law Council of Australia has gathered together a working group that will look at possibilities for further legal challenges to a High Court decision in August, which said the Migration Act — that allows asylum seekers to be locked up for indefinite periods — was valid.
In an interview with Lawyers Weekly, LCA president Steve Southwood said the lawyers involved, and the Law Council, have an ongoing concern about human rights in this area. “The LCA has had a position on asylum seekers for some time and as part and parcel of this we have been monitoring decisions that relate to the issue,” he said.
The LCA decided, in light of recent decisions, that it is time to review the law in relation to asylum seekers and evaluate whether there are further arguments that can be made.
If this is not productive, Southwood said, the working group will look at recommending legislative reform. “I think the prospect of going much further in court challenges may be limited and may [require] having a detailed look at legislation that achieves the government’s objective of national security as well as maximises liberty.”
In terms of the anticipated government response to the working group’s aims, Southwood said he expects that Australians would not support indefinite detention in circumstances where it is plainly unreasonable. “These people are coming to Australia to better their lives,” Southwood said, also suggesting that detaining them is an enormous loss of potential.